For the next couple of weeks, Middleagedad has moved into retail, specifically a pop up vinyl record shop, as part of his ongoing Resonate Generate art project (regular readers may remember it from the Selfridges Bright Old Things window).
The tiny store features a tightly edited collection of 70s and 80s vinyl records, eight-track players, portable single players -very popular in France apparently- typewriters, other musical gadgets popular in the day and a bit of art. LPs and 12inch singles are played through an old school turntable, amp and good, Acoustic Research speakers.
The space is inspired by MAD’s recent visit to San Francisco and Tokyo, where he saw small music and fashion stores which offered a very edited and focused selection of vinyl, with clean and elegant, retro inspired surroundings.
It opened on Saturday and within moments, blokes of all ages appeared as if by magic. All of them genuinely excited by the shop. I sat on the small bench close to the store and watched as passing men instantly slowed their pace and peered in, attracted by the spinning yellow eight-track (moving windows!) and the promise of music and vinyl.
I have been amazed how happy this little store has made men of all ages. Don’t get me wrong, there are women sifting through the vinyl too, MAD reckons its a 50/50 split, but it’s not unusual for me to see women happy in stores, it’s very unusual to see men stay so long.
From silver-haired accountants reminiscing about eight track players in their cars to the man from the local toy shop turning out to be Steve Zodiac, lead singer of heavy metal band Vardis, recently referenced by both Metallic and Slayer as a big influence, men of all ages are hanging out. MAD’s current challenge is how to control visitors bringing in their own albums for him to sell…Useful as he may run out of stock, but unexpected.
And they are buying; topping up existing collections, keen to start new ones or just eager to listen to tracks that took them back to their youth. Father’s Day saw lots of dads and their teenage sons come in and talk music together as they flipped through the boxes.
Was the vinyl record store the last great shopping experience for middleagemen? There are men who enjoy clothes shopping, but this is often a solution-driven experience, ie they need a suit/jeans/shoes, search efficiently for the perfect pair, purchase and leave, there’s very little dwelling in said shop for pleasure. And I’ve never seen a happy man in Ikea.
There have been times in the pop up when middleagedad has had to gently encourage men out of the door at the end of the day in order to come home for supper. In all my years of retail observing, I think this is exceptional behaviour and one that might have been overlooked. We all know vinyl is having a moment, but vinyl retail stores might actually get grown up men out shopping.
This is MAD seventh public outing with the Resonate Generate project and it’s been the same with every event, men in particular, love it. What is it about the record store that makes men feel so comfortable?
MAD tells us “It’s about music triggering memories, in a very powerful manner, it stops them in their tracks (no pun intended) and they can’t help themselves share their stories with me -a stranger -and they are happy to. There’s also something about collections, they often want to tell me about their collections, perhaps this is men saying who they are through their music choices, women visitors never do.”
And it’s not just men browsing. Resonate\Generate was specifically designed by MAD to make women feel comfortable, something old-school music stores never did, it’s clean, edited, easily accessible and welcoming. MAD continues, “Some women come in an immediately say ‘I need to send my husband down here’ but many stay and buy something for themselves”.
Evening-up the gender balance, my favourite customers this week were an elderly man -supported by his walking frame- and his grown up daughter. As her dad shuffled through the Pink Floyd albums, she reminisced how, as a teenager, she was never allowed to touch her dad’s immaculate, high tech, hi-fi set up. “When he went out” she said, “I’d go straight to the hi-fi, having carefully watched how to switch the buttons on in the right order, and play The Police really, really loud. I switched it all off by the time he’d return and he never knew’.
The pop up store is open until Sunday 3rd July, 11.00am to 6.00pm, and is at 65 Sheen Lane, East Sheen, SW14 (very close to Mortlake Station). More details here